We had the opportunity to go beyond, and to take a deep look into the future of this sector and what we can expect from next generations of vehicles.
General improvement of emissions in existing technologies
The appearance of hybrid engines and biofuels have revolutionised both fuel efficiency and environmental performance. Most of brands offered diesel and gasoline models with extremely low consumption, even below 120grCO2/km despite having good power. Such are the cases of Honda Civic 1.6 i-DTEC (Diesel, 98grCO2/km, 3.7l/100, cat. A) or Alfa Romeo Giulia 2.2 JTDm (Diesel, 109grCO2/km, 4.2l/100, cat. A). We still would like to know what their performance would be with pure biofuels (B100 and E100), but these improvements will certainly generate a healthy competition with the environment as the main beneficiary.
We believe part of the success comes from the use of lighter materials: weight matters in energy consumption and to rank the energy label. But also flatter designs with wavy curves, positioning the centre of gravity closer to the road while leaving great space inside, reduce drag forces, making driving more aerodynamic, comfortable and ecologic.
Hybrid vehicles are the present solution
There are many combinations for a hybrid engine. These are always reinventing themselves to take advantage of the characteristics of fuels. Be that as it may, they help to reduce consumption and emissions, and it was great to find that most utility vehicle manufacturers are working hard on these technologies to make their models, at least, as competitive in performance and price as their traditional ones. We have spotted a tendency towards NG-gasoline and electric-gasoline models of which we can highlight Skoda Octavia Combi G-Tech 1.4TM (NG-Gasoline, 95gr CO2/Km, 5.3m3/100, cat A), Suzuki Baleno 1.2 Hybrid (e-gasoline, 94grCO2/km, 4.0l/100, cat B), Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (e-gasoline, 42gr CO2/km, 3.3l/100, cat B) and Audi A3 SB g-tron (NG-gasoline, 97grCO2/km, 5.4m3/100, cat B).
Thanks to hybrid engines, we can assure a short-termed solution to decrease the level of emissions. Likewise, we are optimistic that the crowd has found much interest in them as their prices continue evening-up with other traditional options.
The hydrogen fuel cell takes strength
If powerful sport cars are still the kings of these events, hydrogen fuel cell technology has been the queen. Not many models could be found, but their performance is in fact promising. This technology is meant to be affordable ‘soon’ for an average pocket and the features included will certainly compete with more developed engines. Such is the case for Hyundai’s Blue-Drive models like ix35 Fuell Cell (H2, 0grCO2/km, 1.0kg/100, 100kw-136hp, cat A), or Toyota Mirai (H2, 0grCO2/km, 0.76l/100, cat A) combining an elegant sedan body with a sportive touch.
But the real current problem is the availability of hydrogen at gas stations – I (the writer) still have not bumped into one. Seemingly, as long as other hybrid technologies keep themselves strong, hydrogen technology (just like electric vehicles) will have to provide an “extra” to overcome this issue. Honda has made a step forward with its Clarity FCX, reaching up to 750km autonomy, but if there’s nowhere to refuel that’s the farthest you will get… We’d rather find new ways to provide hydrogen sustainably and affordably, for the sake of this technology.
Electric vehicles caught much interest... but that’s not enough
Walking along the motor show, we found a crowd comparable to that at the stands of Lamborghini, Maserati, Bentley or Aston Martin…yes, it was Tesla’s stand. Their master pieces where proudly exposed and, in contrast with other glamourous brands, accessible to general public and open to get into them. So, that made it about impossible for us to have a closer access. But at least, we could compare their characteristics with other electric cars from other brands.
At a glance, electric vehicles look awesome. In our opinion, Tesla S 700 (electric, 0grCO2/km, 21,7kwh/100, cat B) and S P90D (electric, 0grCO2/km, 21.5kwh/100, cat B) models, and Mercedes Benz B e drive (electric, 0grCO2/km, 17,9kwh/100, cat A), were the most advanced ones in the show. However, we must assume some facts.
Electric cars are the future – moreover when one day they self-exploit solar energy. But currently, despite electric cars offer great potential and include features that make them highly appealing they lack autonomy and still might be more appropriate to solve the situation in urban scenarios than for long trips. Time of recharge is still too high with stops over 30 mins after 100-200km… should you find a place on the road to recharge it! Regarding this issue, we came across the original EP Tender concept offered by the French start-up Tender’Lib. The EP Tender is a supplementary modular surplus of energy (100% gasoline and/or 98% electric) for hybrid or electric vehicles that we can rent per use when going on long trips.
There is a long way to go with electric vehicles. But the manufacture of electric supercars has been achieved (e.g. Techrules T96 and GT96 TREV) including turbines and other futuristic entelechies, that might give rise to a new era of vehicles.
Some final notes to reflect about…
We held a substantial conversation with the people at the FIA stand. We discussed about the state of the art of ecodriving and how necessary it is to make drivers conscious of their role in current times. But the key point of our conversation was security, especially for children. Did you know that every day over 500 kids die on the roads worldwide? According to their data, in 2010 there were more than 1.2 million fatalities on the roads i.e. around 10 per million people every year. Inappropriate mobility infrastructures, aggressive driving style, distractions and lack of attention… it all combined produce this sinister data. By becoming ecodrivers we can collaborate to minimise the statistics: smooth and careful driving is the key.